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      The new shop was splendiferous. It had all people could imagine about pets and stuff, pets most people wouldn’t have imagined existed. There was even a whole division for the pets health, with permanent vets…

      The “Rent’a Pet Shop, Boy!” was taking a whole building, with no less than thirteen storeys, and when Sidonie entered the huge hall at the ground floor, which was slightly above the waters’ level, she was awed by the quantity of animals which where stored in the facility.
      She didn’t know what she wanted for a start and now she was beginning to feel lost.

      A beautiful tall black woman, with short hair and wearing an ample avocado-coloured boubou and carrying a little dog close to her chest passed by her and Sidonie could hear her muttering apparently incoherent bits to herself
      Come on Chumpy, the doctor said it will be alright after that surgery, here, here little thing, breathe, breathe and say YES… Oh Lordy, I’m gonna be late, and Sam will be bugged if I make him wait in his friend’s flying car…

      Sidonie was mesmerized by the woman, who suddenly turned to face her and said winkingly “I’d rather not go for a squawking parrot if I were you, they can’t keep quiet… and not a magpie either… Al said this new breeds of nine-tailed foxes are great, but I can’t really get used to anything else but dogs… Oh, I must go, need to have the last alterations done on my wedding gown… How can they expect that I remember all of this!

      And the woman went running out of the shop…

      Sidonie was baffled… A nine-tailed fox… Why not, sounded like a nice idea. At least, she could start by renting it, and if it was a nice companion and Tonio was OK with it, she would adopt it…

      She asked a vendor where was the fox section. The vendor took a very professional look to ask her if she meant the new genetically engineered breed of foxes, or the classical breeds, desert, arctic or continental…
      Sidonie was lost for a moment, then remember the lady had said they were new breeds, so she asked for the new ones in an intimidated voice.

      Upstairs, thirteenth floor, on your right after the jump said the vendor and beware of the shrimpigators


      You know, Leo, there was something funny about that guy, mused Bea. It almost seems like a dream…

      Hmmm? Leonora wasn’t really listening, she was engrossed in the Yurara Fameliki website.

      Bea was running her hands along a length of thin black cable. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this cable, Leo, it just don’t seem right some’ow…

      With a sigh, Leonora turned to face Bea and said, I’ll never bloody catch up with that Yurara story now. Three weeks with no internet, as fast as I’m reading a chapter, another three have started, it’s doing my f’kin’ ‘ead in.

      Well I don’t know what your problem is all of a sudden, Leo, since when did you ever read anything in the right order?

      Oh, bloody good point, eh, Leonora felt instantly cheered. I forgot that, it’s true. Matter of fact, she chuckled, I just got lost roaming around all the first chapters, Heh…..wasn’t even trying to get the latest lot straight.

      What did you say it was called? asked Bea.

      What was what called?

      The website you were just going on about. Bea rolled her eyes.

      Oh! heh….Yurara Fameliki; why?

      There was an article in the Reality Times about them yesterday. Some batty old woman left them a fortune, apparently. Circle of Eights or something….

      Circle of Eights? Leo had an image of interlocking circles that felt strangely familiar, meaningful somehow…

      Yeah, this old lady was 88 when she died, and she was reading the 888th entry when she saw the ‘Buy A Drink’ link…she lived at 88, Faraway Close, too, Nottingham…..

      How much dosh did she leave them?


      F’kin’ ‘ell….ooof! It could be that easy, eh. I want a ‘Buy A Drink’ link, too.

      Well, a website would be a start, eh. Where you going to stick your ‘Buy A Drink’ link, on yer arse?

      Heheh, bugger off Bea, Leo said good naturedly.

      She was beginning to catch a few sparkly glimmerings of an idea.


      Before leaving the castle, the fake Viscountess needed to check something on the skull…
      Was it a genuine one? She had almost trusted the so-called experts of the auction room, while she knew perfectly well that they only could see what they knew. And they didn’t know as much as her.

      To her knowledge, there was only a handful of genuine old crystal skulls. But counterfeits were legions and a plague for such a skillful cat burglar as she was. Well, cat-burglar,… perhaps not as acrobatically as she used to… As a matter of fact, her life-long search for these skulls had suffered the competition of a little embonpoint… — the good thing being that those few sticky superfluous pounds had been perfect to impersonate the Viscountess.
      In the past, she had come across a few of these fake skulls and most of them bore very similar indications leaving her to think stakes were high that they were coming from the same con-artist.

      She methodically drew a little dagger from a scabbard at her belt. Going to one of the window, she drew one of the curtains a few inches to reveal the pale sun of Shropshire which was already fading.
      Then, she turned the jeweled hilt in such a special manner that a soft clicking sound was heard, and a beam of light started to converge from the sun rays into the dagger. She directed the ray coming from the tip of the dagger’s blade into the bottom of the skull, and hold her breath in expectation.

      Soon the skull started to glow a bluish light, and light poured out of the skull onto the walls in dancing symbols, while a soft buzzing sound was being heard around, started to drown her in a slightly dissociated state.
      She cut the dagger’s beam very quickly, her heart pounding at the validation. It was a genuine skull. One of the six.

      She had to hurry, she needed to proceed on her investigations to find the missing ones.

      The trunk was there. She took another key that she had around her neck, leaving the first one on the cupboard’s lock for the Viscountess to be freed as soon as she would be out.
      With the key, she proceeded to open the high-tech lock of the armored trunk which opened with a blow of air.

      Her jumpsuit was here, along with the two turbo-reactor powered condor-wings that she strapped on her jumpsuit in very professional movements.

      A few moments later, with her big dark sunglasses that gave her the appearance of an obese fly, Carla was flying high over the countryside of England, enjoying the soft gliding on the slightly damp air.


      As soon as she’d come back from her trip, Dory had planned to travel again very soon.
      Of course, she had enjoyed tremendously being home, being with Dan and young Becky… yes, she had… the first day for sure…
      Well… She was a born wanderer, she couldn’t do against her own nature, no need to beat herself for that, and feel guilty for leaving Dan and Becky periodically. Hopefully, Becky was very understanding, and perhaps that the fact that Dory was her stepmother made things easier for them both, without burdening their relationship with useless obligations towards one another.

      On the other side, many exciting destinations were on her list, and she barely knew where to start. One that had attracted her curiosity was the site of Jiroft in Iran, where the famed lost Kingdom of Aratta had been supposedly found very recently. Artifacts had been discovered on this site, predating our commonly supposed invention date of written language, which had fascinated Dory for a while, before she got lost amidst the wide spectrum of her other interests.

      Well, all of this was of frenzying interest, but there were dogs and back issues…
      Somehow, Dory had been struggling with lots of tensions in her back, and the more she forced herself moving, the worse the pain was. Finally beaten by herself, when no one else, friend, family or doctor could accomplish such a feat, she was stuck to a cushioned armchair for most of the day holding to her pain as to a stuck parasitic hated friend.
      And then, there was the dogs.
      As she was barely able to move, Dan had renounced to have her come with him and Becky to see Sabine, Becky’s mother, in Mallorca, where she had invited them for the Epiphany.
      Secretly, Dory was happy to have to stay at home, and not to have to make pleasing faces to the horrid obsessive woman she could only stand a few minutes without having to go out and empty a whole pack of cigarettes to calm her down.
      The only little drawback was that she had to take care of the dogs… And she was running short of dog’s food…

      Before leaving, Dan had left her a phone number of their new neighbours, a batty couple of Brits who had just rented the farm nearby, and with whom Dan was occasionally playing golf and lending a hand in small DIY work.
      Reluctantly, Dory took the post-it and smiled at the familiar handwriting of Dan

      BEATTIE & LEONORA FLETCHER : 933-157-821

      She composed the number in a deliberate slow motion, which strangely felt very empowering.

      — Hello! a quavering male voice answered
      — Err… Mr Fletcher?
      — Ms Fletcher,… herself, what can I do for you?
      — I’m Dorothy Mc Leane, one of your neighbour, you probably know my…
      — Oh, yes! Dorothy, may I call you Dorothy, Dan spoke of you so much that we were very eager to meet you, weren’t we Leo?

      A ruffling sound behind Beattie Fletcher seemed to approve.

      — And is there anything we could do for you?
      — Well, I’m awfully embarrassed to have to ask you, but I’m stuck at home, and my dogs don’t have much food left…
      — Oh my dear! You did so very well to call us, didn’t she Leo? We’ll be at your home in a few minutes!
      — But…
      — Oh, no need to thank us for that, it’s all natural, after all that your delightful husband did for us! We see you in a moment…

      And with that the line was cut. Dory was a bit disconcerted by the strange couple, but decided to dance with what was coming to her doorstep (wishing it would not be flamenco), seeing that having placed these quaint people in her reality could not entirely be a stroke of wild madness… If only…


      Rafaela stopped her meticulous grazing and smiled, as far as a goat can smile, at the newcomer.
      We were waiting for you… and your other half so to speak.

      Kay looked at the goat suspiciously. He had never seen a goat speaking. And it was not an spirit animal. He automatically began growling.
      Grrrrowl… who are you?
      He looked successively at the lynx, the owl and the rabbit.
      Who are you 4?

      — Oh a dog!!

      Anita got on her feet quickly and began running toward him. That was when a winded Akita choose to appear in the clearing.

      Kay, why the hell did you run after that… What is a little girl doing in the middle of this jungle? he muttered, trying to catch his breathe.

      And he can’t see you guys, apparently thought the spirit dog.


      Chris, I demand you tell me what’s going on! What was that … that thing! Nurse Bellamy was visibly upset, her cheeks flushed, her voice tremulous. She had no idea what had just happened, but she suspected that even coconut milk might not make it better this time.

      Are you going to tell her or do I have to do it? asked Veranassessee. Because if you can pull yourself together I have a couple of guests locked in a closet, and now a mummy on the run to deal with! It had been a tiring day and Veranassessee was furious.

      V’ass what’s going on, Chris, will someone please tell me ….!

      I will tell her Veranassessee. Dr Bronkelhampton slumped in his chair and wondered where to start. A plan was beginning to form in his head. V’ass had always said Nurse Bellamy should be told the truth, now it seems that, as usual, she was right. But of course, he smiled to himself, as Dr Lemane, his erudite Professor at medical school had always said, there are many sniggly variations of one truth. Well, it was something along those lines he said anyway.


      Oh this is the bees knees! what do you reckon about this room then Sha? Do you think the treatment has started?

      Perhaps it is special beauty air in here. It smells different don’t it?

      They both breathed deeply. Oh Yes, Yes, YES! giggled Glor



      It’s a bit odd though don’t you think? I mean nothing like what I was thinking.


      The mummy headed towards the dense bush, her brain was foggy but she knew she had to find cover. Her limbs felt heavy. Keep going, just keep going …


      Nurse Bellamy could not stop crying. Oh Chris … oh you poor man. I always thought there was something odd about Veranassessee. Oh what shall we do my darling, she must be stopped!

      Quite right, she must my little poppet, soothed Dr Bronkelhampton, stroking Nurse Bellamy’s hair gently, and thinking quickly. But for now, keep it to yourself. It is a very delicate matter. Can you do that my sweet one? Just for me?

      Oh yes Chris! whatever you think best my my darling.


      Instantly Elizabeth regretted her spikey, voodish behaviour and scrambled to retrieve the telepooh. Her mother was Vood by nature, a particularly dysfunctional personality type, and Elizabeth had struggled all her life to avoid similar behavioural patterns. Her friends, and certainly her ex-husbands, would say perhaps with only partial success.

      Apologies Bronkel, I was engrossed in my writing. How can I help you?

      Bronkel appeared to be covered in bandages from what she could see of his upper torso, giving him the appearance of a rather odd mummy like creature. He was constantly searching for new beauty treatments to extend his youthful goodlooks, however at 167 years more and more desperate measures were being called for.

      Elizabeth! Thank God, Where in Flork’s name have you been? he shouted at her. His pudgy, prouty little face was scrunched in peevish vexation. I can’t talk for long, I am on the Island for a month and the connection is flork. Where in the name of Fock is the story you promised me?

      She could not find the words to reply to Bronkel. I wonder if I am mindblown? she mused. She had read of this horrible phenomenon, and seen the sad pictures of those thus afflicted. Poor wandering creatures, strange erratic behaviour, always travelling, always seeking. But for what? Hell on Dearth indeed. She shuddered.

      It is getting urgent you know, spluttered Bronkel. Every day I am reading of new treatment centers opening for those undergoing crisis due to the prolonged absence of the Fickle Four in their lives.

      She sighed, Pull yourself together Elizabeth, her bloodshot and tired eyes were drawn to the planetary horrorscope on the monthly calendar. Todays “Words of Comfort for the Descending” quotation was from the famous philosopher Lemone. She particularly loved Lemone’s ideas. Many considered him a nutter, a few thought he was a genius ahead of his time. For herself, she did not really know, only that his profoundly beautiful words offered a kind of solace or balm to her tortured soul at times such as this :

      Sometimes it takes a single sniggly thorny path to go through to reach Elysian avenues much more efficiently ~ Lemone

      Absolutely fantastic Bronkel, I think this is going to be the best novel yet! My God what an effort it took to say that, but for some reason Bronkel appeared to believe her and began to calm. Thank you Lemone, I could kiss you! she breathed an inward sigh of relief.

      Poke its eyes out! screeched Robert X exuberantly.

      A sniggly thorny path indeed, she thought, hanging up on Bronkel. She had fun using him and his island getaway for inspiration in her last novel. Fun, what happened to the fun? Is this what descended beings do, sit around in a dank, dusty office writing trashy novels?

      She began nervously smoothing out pieces of paper and tried to decipher the scribbled notes; …big soup party …..pointy teeth like cannibals…..tribal wedding ….

      Elizabeth put her head in her hands and groaned in abject despair. Twelve of the twenty mongoats fainted at the fearful sound.


      Somewhere during the 23 rd century

      “aaa AAAA AAAAA Tcheeeew !”

      “Hiiiiii?! Oh Fracking NOOOoooo!”

      The shriek had been heard in the whole facility.

      Phefia Beryl was the first on the spot where Vinya Grey had been playing so exuberantly with her vocal chords.

      — Vinnie? Are you alright?… What just happened?
      — Oh, Pheffy… I think I made an awful blunder…
      — What do you mean?
      — You know, my last experiment?
      — The g…
      — Yes!
      — What?!
      — They poofed away…
      — Away?… You mean, all of them? Oh bugger…


      A few minutes later, Vinya and Phefia were around a white table sucking on straws picked into white and red polystyrenoid balls.

      — Vinnie, you look terrible… That last geomagnetic storm had not done very good on your DNA I’m afraid.
      — And the worse is that each time I sneeze, I blow up wormholes… I thought it would go better very quickly, but last one was big and lasted long enough to let the whole experimental herd wander off in another time/space and/or dimension…
      — Yeah, that’s pretty bad… But wherever they went, they probably will die very soon… Imagine… With their stiff legs anytime they see something frightening, I guess a mere mapgie could easily have them for dinner…
      — Such a pity… I was close to doing something great with them… When we discovered these fossilized blue spiders, I knew it was the first step.
      — Bwah, this rehydrated frogrog is the grossest thing I’ve ever drunk… But yeah you’re right, the first results were very promising. The spiders venom could provoke very random and deep mutations.
      — And all we needed was a little more control on the direction of the mutations.
      — Anyway they’re just goats… You possibly can’t have breached a cosmic law with a handful of GOATS
      — Hope so Pheffy, hope so…


      San Demangelo, 1848

      Elroy was laughing… Hey Joe, Twi! he shouted A letter from Uncle Ernie!

      — Uncle Ernie? How’s the old bat doin’? asked Twilight
      — He’s sending his greetings for the new year, and babbling about last dead people in the neighborhood. But there’s something funny. He’s saying that he’d just acquired some funny goats. Like popped in, out of nowhere. At first he’d thought of a joke, but apparently no one’s been claiming them. He’d thought them dead, they were a dozen laying stiff on the ground, but when they started to wake up, they went down again like broken dolls. Apparently the magpies on top of the tree had been scaring them. Ahaha… Where does he get such strange stories…
      — Well, magpies are scarey, Twilight said meaningfully, with a side glance at Joe
      — Whatever… At least he’d been giving us a good laugh. He’s saying he’s gonna breed the horny beasts, and start a Fainting Goat Fair (or FGF) in Marshall County. Perhaps we could get there next Thanksgiving…
      — Depends when the Freak Show’s coming to town, mused Twilight, I hope to see them soon…


        “Hang on a minute” he shouted to his friends as soon as they were out of the grocery store, burden with the loads of the bags.
        Molly, Harvey and Francis looked puzzled at their foreign friend.
        Then with a shrug, Harvey sat on a pile of snow that had fallen from the roof, and leaned against one of the pillars of the square place dimly lit by a buzzing orange light.

        He run to the chalet on the left, which was apparently closed, but he knew there would probably be someone in there.
        He opened the creaking door, not startled by the bells tinkling at his left ear, and went straight to the counter, as though he had always known the place. A young man with a goatee was there, busy sorting old papers for the annual closing of the hostel.

        — Do you have a glass of water please? the stranger asked
        — Oh yes, sure… And with that?

        The man seemed to expect an answer… The stranger felt as if he knew that answer…

        — Yes… one of your… you know… chocolate things, with the wolf on it.
        — Exactly! the tenant was smiling.

        The stranger fumbled in his pocket, not having thought of requiring any money for a glass of water. But now…
        Phew, there was a coin in his left pocket. He drew it out, looked at it… A 3 euros coin? He didn’t know such a currency existed…

        — Oh, I won’t have the change I fear, the man answered… But I can make you a credit memo.

        He had no idea he would come back here soon, but the familiar place as much as the obliging man made him think that anything would be okay. At worse, he would have lost a few euros, which was no big loss.

        — Sure.

        The man showed him a red ticket, and leaning on the counter, proceeded with some explanations.

        — This is your credit memo. Additionally, as the hostel won’t be fully rented, you can use this as a reservation for next week. It’s for Mr Arkandin. You will be able to enter the special exhibit and join the guided tour. It’s a laying down travel. People are expected to go nowhere, yet they will travel. Pillows and blankets will be provided.

        He had a strange image in his mind of people laying on their backs and gliding on the floor in patterns leaving some tracks on the ground with various colours.

        — It is supposed to show people some beliefs about monogamy. And keeping track of their own travels…

        That was most puzzling… He wasn’t sure he would still be here next week, but that sounded intriguing enough to not be thrown in the bin right away…
        He thanked the man after having had his glass of water and putting the wolf-brand candy and red square of paper in his pocket.

        — There you are, sighed Molly, and what have taken you so long?


        Home, at last… Bernie Eleonara Mynd, Viscountess of Shropshire sighed, dropping her hairy salmon coloured hermine fur coat to the butler.
        Now, leave me alone Vigor, I don’t want to be disturbed.
        Madam, Vigor bowed deferentially

        A smoking teapot of fine herb tea was prepared on the glass coffee table just near a black silk pouch. With a greedy look on her face, she untied voraciously the pouch to reveal the crystal skull she had just acquired.
        After a few seconds of beholding the priceless possession, she lifted the teapot lid with a stiff face which eventually smiled blissfully at the smell of the fine Earl Fuchsia crop which was infusing.

        Good Lord, that trip was exhausting!… she growled in a very deep voiced that suddenly sounded more male than before.
        Didn’t know I had to go as far as Spain to get that darn skull!

        Bernie suddenly ripped her fine chignon from her head, revealing a bald head with a few short black hair on the top. She spitted her false teeth, peeled off some wrinkled patches of latex skin, smeared the mascara around her globular eyes and scratched her crotch…

        A ruffled sound and a “mmm mmm” suddenly caught her attention off the itchy body parts.

        She went to the cupboard, drew a key dangling from a necklace deeply buried inside her ample bosom, then stopped for a moment, and muttered a “bugger” before unbuttoning her tight blouse and removing the corset that was constraining her breath.
        Smiling wickedly, she proceeded to open the cupboard, but recoiled at a pale tied and muzzled figure who looked much similar to whoever she was impersonating.

        Oh, Lordy, what a stench! There’s no point in making such a fuss Viscountess, this will soon be over… I just needed a few things, and will soon be off, tonight to be precise…

        The pale figure whined with pleading eyes.

        Oh, just don’t make these eyes at me…

        Bugger! I can’t bother with her now, she said to herself, closing the cupboard’s door oblivious to the plaintiff whines. Now, got to move on real quick, before they realize something was wrong with the transaction.


        Juan had insisted that they all spent Christmas together before Paqui and Joselito went for their trip. He felt that there was more to this trip that he could grasp, and wanted to share these precious moments now, not wanting to live on regrets.
        Now, the new year was here, and he was alone. At least, he’d been more than glad to see Claudio move out. It had all been a lot easier than he’d thought at first. Obviously, when Paquita had said to that maggot that she was going to accompany Joselito to his trip on the whachaname-Kikkoo Island, Claudio had been outraged, probably thinking a good playing victim act would soon make things right for him.
        But he’d been wrong altogether. It was not about love for him or the other. It was all about freedom and being what she wanted. And emotional blackmail very quickly proved besides the point.
        His father had been proud at Paquita. Her decision obviously was made, and it had been the first time he had seen the frail girl unwavering at the arguments.

        The situation had soon proved unbearable for Claudio, who had no longer any reason for hanging around Juan and Paqui’s house, and one day he’d moved out, rather discreetly, not to be heard again. Somehow, Juan was aware of the town’s gossips, that he had acquired some unexpected sum of money, not sure if all very legally, but the thing was that he had decided to take his chances by going some said to Nicaragua, others to Brazil or even to the US…
        But who really cared?


        On his plane for Valparaiso, Claudio was looking at the letter he’d found in the family trunk. It was a brief correspondence between his grand-father and a certain Cillian Mc Gaughran, and it was linked to the skull he had sold such a handsome price. Perhaps he could get more information about them, if the recluse old man was still alive, that is…


          Vincentius, usually of cheerful disposition, had been in a silent and pensive mood all day. Later that evening, while Yikesy slept, Arona gently asked him if he was okay. He sighed.

          Do you realise it is Yuletide, Arona? he asked.

          Arona did not pay much attention to the passing of time. It was a rather like her map. She did not quite see the point of having a map when she did not know where she was going. Likewise, what was the point of keeping track of time? When one did not know where one was going, it was clearly not necessary to be anywhere at any particular point in time.

          So she grunted non-committedly in response.

          Is that a special time for you? she prompted eventually, when Vincentius once again lapsed into a gloomy and silent reverie.

          He sighed. Do you mind if I tell you a story, Arona? he asked. It is rather long.

          I would love that, she replied, meaning it sincerely.


          All he remembered was the name “Akita”… He was not sure that it was his name, perhaps it was not, but he had taken it as his own.
          He’d been stranded on that island for so long he barely remembered whether he’d had a past before. In the beginning, he had taken an inventory of the passing time, but soon had discovered that days were irregularly long, and nights would sometimes last for more than one day, so that it was all pointless…
          The toughest part had been to live in good intelligence —he couldn’t really say harmony— with the predatory hairy nest of the daughters of Narani. But at least he’d made clear that he was able to defend himself and retaliate if needed…

          — Thanks to me, grunted a big dog half-focused, his head on his lap.
          — Yeah, mostly thanks to you, Kay

          Kay had appeared a few days after Akita discovered himself on that strange land. He was no common dog… In fact, Akita was wondering that it may only exist in his mind. Kay had been approaching him, more than he had tamed it, and soon Akita found out that he was no dog at all.
          He was, as Kay had said, an inugami or dog spirit, able to shape-shift, and willing to bond with Akita. He’s said Akita his previous owner had died, and that he would have to die with him unless being adopted by another…
          Akita had been reluctant at first, finding that there was something unclear, but he had agreed anyway… Better be with a faithful and powerful dog-spirit than die in the webs of the giant spiders…
          All he had to do was to name it. And so he named it Kay.
          Kay couldn’t be seen by most of the creatures in the forest, though the most sensitive could feel his presence. However, he could decide to take a more corporeal form, but that exhausted both Akira and Kay, and was rarely done. So most of the times, he was roaming the island in spirit form, which didn’t mean that he was powerless, far from it.

          — I can sense something’s coming, growled Kay who took the shape of a big two-legged werewolf…


          I wonder how delightful it may feel to become one with that butterfly, mused Franiel, his attention diverted from the job at hand as he followed the dance of a delicate white butterfly. He closed his eyes for a moment and merged with the creature, how free ! He sighed, trying somewhat reluctantly to pull himself back. Franiel had been sat there for quite some time now, supposedly engaged in the task of writing a short poem of 3 stanzas for Hrih, the Old One.

          Of course there was no pressure. Yet in his desire to please, Franiel felt it as such. In his dreams of the previous night Hrih had visited him. He had offered Franiel a golden crown, a silver goblet filled with sweet nectar, and a jewelled sword. Choose! commanded Hrih. Franiel had chosen the goblet and drank thirstily from it, and yet he had felt that Hrih was not pleased with his choice, and upon wakening Franiel had felt a strange uneasiness.

          Franiel had not been trained in the way of the pen, and he knew his words would be clumsy. He had been raised in a poor home, where words were not considered to be of much value other than to instruct him in his tasks, or berate him when those tasks were not completed. Being a dreamy child, this had often been the case.

          He wished he could harness the power of words and use them to soothe and caress, to create beauty even, he thought, gently running his finger over the plain wooden table where he was seated.

          Well for now he would not worry what form his words should take, for it was enough of a task even to know what his highest truth might be!

          My highest truth .. my highest truth, … how many times now had he said these words, hoping perhaps if he repeated them enough the gods might take pity on his for his ignorance and provide an answer. How could he possibly know his highest truth? The very concept of such a thing perplexed him.

          Day was turning into night before Franiel finally laid down his pen. In the end his words were simple. He sighed, saddened by the thought that they would surely be a disappointment. The best I can hope for is that the Old One will see these words as nothing more than a doorway to my soul. Hrih was wise, Franiel knew this, and trusted the decision of the Old One.

          It was in the hands of the gods, for surely if I can’t trust this at least, all my fine talk and learning is for nothing.

          I am the driftwood
          the wave carried me
          I was buried in sand

          I am the flower
          the butterfly touched me
          I fell in love

          I am the raindrop
          the cloud released me
          I became the ocean



            Yann had woke up this morning with this word in his head… he had a weird experience last night just as he was falling asleep. A sudden and loud noise in his right ear. Like air compression, a BAM or a crunching of sort… it wasn’t a physical noise and he had felt it quite clearly in his ear and in his head, resonating in his bones. It had been so weird.

            He’d called Yurick around 10am and Quintin had told him about a similar noise at the same time… What a weird experience. Yann was wondering if Finn or Dory had had similar experiences… maybe Malika?

            Just one hour before the end of the day at work… he would soon have his answer.

            He was wondering if it wasn’t connected to some mummy explosion… well, no, too weird.


            Alarmed by the sound of the explosion, Mrs Butterbutt rushed out of her office.

            What the hell are they doing again? If it’s these dirty sons of …

            She censored her thought as she was about to burst out in anger, she was so focused on that prout farting Mc Gaughran that as she opened the door of the main room, her face was that of a fury…. but as soon as she saw what had happened, she heard the laugh of Little Joe followed by all the drunkards and the sissy cow boys of that town. Her loud laugh soon joined with the others… she managed to calm down and talked to the juicy Aldous.

            — Oh you’re going to pay for all that mess, behave Mc Gaugran, you could have refrained from shitting on you!

            She couldn’t help but burst into laughter again.


            Claudio pulled himself together and bent over the dusty trunk. Of course it hadn’t opened on its own, he was imagining things. The contents were wrapped in an indigo shawl. Claudio peeled back the cloth, sneezed, and pulled out a jewelled dagger.


            That Abe sure is ugly as a burnt boot and crazier than a run over coon, aint he, said Isadora, one of the saloon girls who Twilight didn’t cotton on to much. The other girls laughed.

            Twilight was real fond of old Abe, and truth was she was feeling right tetchy and pernikity and itching for a fight, and she weren’t much in the mood for dancing that night.

            And your brain cavity wouldn’t make a drinkin cup for a canary Isadora. So why don’t you just shut that big old stupid mouth of yours before everyone cottons on to the fact that you are studying to be a half-wit.

            Why you are nothing but a no-good little strumpet, screeched Isadora, lunging at Twilight and trying to grab her blond wig. Twilight stepped nimbly out of the way.

            And you aint nothing but a stupid little buckle bunny, taunted Twilight. You got nothing better to do then follow those rodeo fellows around?

            Snakes Alive! exclaimed Madame Butterbutt. Will you both hold yer tongues and stop yer bitching. And will you get a hurry on Twilight. Yer ain’t even dressed yet.

            Isadora started crying. That Twilight started it, she snivelled.

            Sooner i get rid of this damn one horse town the better, muttered Twilight under her breath. She touched the jewelled dagger lodged between her breasts. Those damn liquor breath cowboys better not mess with me tonight.

            Old Abe, propping up the bar, chuckled


            some writing by Twilight

            Jo fixed me up a swing. It hung from the old elm tree out the front. That’s my favourite place. I just sit there rocking and thinking, and thinking and rocking. Sometimes I would weave stories or sometimes I would dream about when I am real famous. I know I will miss Jo and Elroy, but then I cheer myself up thinking how, when I am rich, I will visit them and give them money and presents and how fine that will be.

            Elroy and Jo don’t know about my stories or how I love to write. I ain’t much good. I didn’t get much schooling but Elroy helped me some and then I would try and teach myself the rest. The only book we have is a big old bible. That is written in real fine words. The part I like the best is a song that Solomon wrote. I don’t know how the tune went but the words are real nice. It is real romantic too. I dream one day some man will use words like that to me. Not like those drunken slobs round these parts. Anyway, that’s how I know I am not much good, because I can’t write nothing like Solomon. But I try anyway.

            Yesterday I was sitting out on the swing rocking and thinking and young Dan from the ranch over the way turned up on his horse. He looked real hot and red and sweaty. Mostly though, he is real fine looking, and I confess I have a soft spot for him. So I leapt off the swing real quick and straightened myself up and bit my lips to make them all big and red. I wanted him to see I had developed some in the last little while.

            Where’s your brothers, Twi? he said to me.

            I felt he didn’t seem to be giving me the appreciation I hoped for, so I did a little flick of my head and gave him the look I had been practising. I had seen the other girls do this look to the men at the saloon, and it seemed to work a treat. I gestured at the same time, real slow and casual, and I said “Out the back, Dan.” in a honey voice.

            He started to ride off, like he was in a hurry. But then he stopped. My heart did a little flutter. He said to me, “You know Twi, the boys at the ranch were talking about you. And it wasn’t the sort of talk should be said about a lady”.

            When Dan said that, I felt he had kicked me in the guts. I wanted to gasp. But I am plenty used to putting up with things and not showing my true feelings, so I just looked at him real cold. Then I spat. I have been practising my spitting and I can do it real good now. Nearly as good as Jo.

            “I am just telling you Twi he said. I thought he would say more, but he seemed to reflect for a moment, then shook his head and off he went in a hurry to find the boys.

            Elroy and Jo looked real bothered when I saw them later. I knew when to hold my tongue so I did not give them no smart talk, and I cooked up a real fine bean dish for their supper. It was real quiet over the table that night. Truth was, I still felt mighty bad over what Dan had said.

            I confess I felt some cares and sadness on me that evening when I went to bed, and found I could not sleep. I got out my diary and thought I would do some writing.
            I tried to write what my name, Twilight, means to me. My real name is Tina Willemine Ivy El Disperso. I always been called Twi. Then Hank at the saloon, he says one night, “I am calling you Twilight and that sort of caught on. It made me feel special, having my own stage name.

            I started writing. Lavender blue sky bleeding into the dark. I thought that sounded quite a good start to my writing, so feeling a bit encouraged I went on some more: Twilight is a magic time. It is the time I see things that aint there, but maybe they could be. My eyes play tricks on me in the half light and I feel like I could be anyone. I feel like I could be someone who I isn’t. Twilight is the time of promises. The promise and mystery of the night to come. It is inbetween time when you know the ordinary stuff could be magic.

            I stopped. I weren’t never going to be able to write like Solomon. I knew that and I felt real bad. At least I could dance though, and that was going to make me famous. But that thought could not cheer me up this night and I confess I cried myself to sleep like a baby.


            Illi woke up with a start. Phew, what a nightmare! Dusty trunks full of grinning crystal skulls, farting mummys blowing bubbles in the sea, huge omelettes in colours she couldn’t name, and UGGHH, Becky shuddered as she recalled that awful blue spider ‘health’ treatment…..


            Claudio was angry. He wanted revenge. Trembling with rage and hurt, he climbed the attic stairs. His great grandfathers trunk was shrouded in a thick layer of dust, but opened easily enough. Almost sprang open before he touched it, Claudio thought uneasily.

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